At a time of growing sectarian confrontation in Lebanon, which in the 1980s witnessed some ofthe worst civil strife in modern history,The war in Syria directly affects Lebanon. The two countries have a long-standing relationship,throughout which Syria has been eager to exercise control over Lebanon. In particular, the SyrianBaath regime sees Lebanon as a small city of its own nation, and the internal conflicts in Tripoli arelinked to the developments in Syria.Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), is seen as key inthe delicate political balance between the two nations; his actions in relation to the subject havetriggered serious discussion.He believes that Lebanon is in a state of despair, and that the ongoing Syrian crisis will lead to theemergence of new political entities in the region. But he dismisses any possibility that the tiny countrycould be divided. Detailing Druze support for the uprising against the 12-year rule of Syria’s PresidentBashar al-Assad, he says Druze members of the Syrian regime are slowly abandoning the sinkingship.On Israel, he claims, it will receive the greatest benefit from the crisis. He believes the violence inSyria could be a golden opportunity for Israel to expel Palestinians from Gaza to Jordan, clearingIsrael of Arabs while strengthening the foothold of Palestinians in Jordan.We spoke with Jumblatt at his house in the Mukhtara region of the Druze Mountains. Jumblatt makesoccasional statements through the March 18 Movement, which supports the opposition groups.Based on the clashes in Tripoli, we could say that Lebanon is moving back towards the olddays. Why is that?The Syrian regime has its partners in the north of Lebanon. One of them is Ali Eid, leader of theAlawites. He has Sunni and Shiite partners as well. The people, on the other hand, extend support tothe resistance and uprising in Syria. Some people and parties want to make the north of Lebanoninvolved in the ongoing controversy. We have to be alert to make sure that we do not give them thispretext. By the clashes in the north of Lebanon, we would justify an intervention by the [Bashar al]Assad regime in the domestic affairs of Lebanon on the grounds of protecting his Alawite supporters— it is wise to refer to “some” of the Alawites, because the majority of the Alawites do not support him.Lebanon has to be careful about this.Do you think the Assad regime will successfully protect its supporters?The regime interferes with internal affairs, arguing that its supporters in Lebanon are in great danger.Everybody is now aware how insane Assad is. We all see what he has done in Aleppo, Hama andother parts of Syria. There are 1.5 million homeless people in the country. The neighboring countrieshost 500,000 Syrian refugees. Why should we give him a reason for intervention in the domesticaffairs of Lebanon?Hezbollah says it is backing the Assad regime. Does this lead to any problems in your relationswith them?
We are not political partners; we are in the same government. This was a necessary coalition due tothe conditions in 2011. Back then, there was no uprising in Syria. This is the subject matter that wecannot agree on with Hezbollah. They support the Assad regime, but we are opposed to it. That weare in the same government does not necessarily mean that we have political agreement. We wereforced to make a coalition government to address potential internal problems in Lebanon.Some claim that the West aims at dividing Lebanon into cantons. Do you think that this ispossible?Lebanon will not be divided; it is not like Bosnia or other similar countries. It is a tiny country. Religionsand sects live together in this country. Some right-wing groups sought to divide Lebanon in 1975 and1976, but they failed. The war lasted 17 years, but in the end there was no partition.What will happen to the Druze in Syria?Things were bad for them at the beginning, but it is better now. The Druze support the popular uprisingin Syria. Nearly 10 high-level military officers have left the army so far — I cannot give any names dueto security concerns. The Druze are also active in Jordan, Paris and the Syrian National Council[SNC]. Of course, more should be done, but we are trying to do our best. Recently, a predominantlyDruze city near Damascus was bombed. This is tough, but the future of the Druze in Syria will beshared with the Muslims and Arabs. There are 400,000 Druze in Syria and 170,000 in Lebanon. Weare a minority; there are 23 million people in Syria.Do you support the Druze rebels in Syria?I do not see the developments from a sectarian perspective. We are in dialogue with all parties thatare opposed to the Assad regime. We supported the military officers in their decisions to leave thearmy. Some of them are now in Turkey and some others will travel there.Some reports claim that partition of Syria was discussed in a summit in Shanghai chaired byRussia, which the US also attended. Can you confirm this?It is true. Under the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, France wanted to partition Syria to create anAlawite state in İskenderun, a Damascus state, a Druze state and an Aleppo state. The Druze peopleopposed this project and they prevented partition of the country. Now we are in 2012 and it is like weare back in 1916. The same scenario is being repeated; it is like they have taken us back 100 years.Today, Russia is playing increasingly big role in the region amid escalating tensions in theregion. What’s your take on that?Russia is trying to recapture the glory of the Russia of the tsar era. Russia, the US and Israel aremaking plans for the partition of Syria, and maybe Turkey is included in this dangerous game. Inaddition to Russia, Iran is also a rising power in the region. It tries to protect the Assad regime, butonce it realizes Assad will be gone it will be part of the partition of Syria. Iran is supplying material aidand arms to the Assad regime. It appears that Iran is in favor of the creation of an Alawite state. Andthere is also an oil pipeline project between Basra and Tartus. In addition, there are arms dealsbetween Russia, Iran and [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al] Maliki. All these plans and games are againstthe Syrian people.How to you assess a possible Russia, Iran, Syria and maybe China axis?True. This is happening because of the power vacuum after the American withdrawal from the region.The US has withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq. For this reason, Russia and Iran are trying to fill thevoid.Some argue that Russia and China will replace traditional major powers in the upcomingdecade. Do you agree with this prediction?I do not want to think this big. What I know is what is happening right now. Getting back to history, theOttoman state made a lot of war with Iran. Back then, the Turks were in Basra. Today, the PersianEmpire [Iran] is on the shores of Lebanon and within Lebanon; it is also in Syria. This is the differencetoday.It appears that the incidents in Syria will have reflections and repercussions in Lebanon aswell.We are making efforts to ensure that the developments do not affect Lebanon. We tell all the partiesthat we are all against the Syrian regime and Assad, but that the fall of Assad cannot be performed inTripoli. We should not give him reason to interfere with the domestic affairs of our country.But how will you prevent this?
Who will fight against whom? Hezbollah is the greatest military power in Lebanon. Nobody could fightagainst it. We wish for this power to be acquired by the state someday. Lebanon is in a state ofdespair on this matter right now.What kind of map could be made of this region?Due to the Russian and Iranian policies, as well as failure to supply heavy weaponry to the rebels, theunity of Syria is in danger. We are against direct intervention of the West in Syria, but we want armssupplied to the rebels. Sadly, no step has been taken on this matter. Meetings of the Friends of Syriahave been held in Tunisia, Istanbul and Paris, but none of them was successful. It is like the West isdoing nothing in regards to the ongoing massacre in Syria. They criticize Turkey, arguing that it is nottaking action to intervene. Turkey will not be able to do so unless a decision is taken in the West. Sofar, the decision of the US has been in favor of reluctance and indifference.Why do you think the US has not been active on the Syrian issue, considering that it tends tobe active in every other matter?There is only one reason: to make sure that subsequent developments do not pose any danger vis-à-vis Israel. The only concern is to protect Israel and its security. I am not sure of the Iranian policy onthis matter; there are some question marks. But Putin paid a visit to Israel. The second most influentialJewish lobby is in Moscow. Putin must have assured Israel that the recent developments in the regionwould not affect its interests.Will a greater Israeli state emerge out of this turmoil?It seems remote for now. The only concern of the world now is to protect Israel from chemical attacksand missiles. For this reason, there are CIA officers in Jordan and special teams of Russia in Tartous.But this will inevitably happen. Israel may tell its Arab citizens to go to their other homeland, namelyJordan.So you are saying that a Palestinian state will be established in place of Jordan?We are not in a position to make a decision on this matter. Today, there is an extreme right party inpower in Israel. And the attempts to create two separate states have so far failed. For this reason, weshould not ignore the potential insane acts of the Israeli extremists. They may want to send thePalestinians to Jordan. The population of the Palestinians has been on the rise and this is creating alot of pressure among the Jews in Israel. For this reason, they may try this move.A huge number of Palestinian refugees migrated from Syria to Jordan, and 60 percent of theJordanian population is of Palestinian origin. Does this not automatically ‘Palestinize’ Jordan?You are right. But it is necessary that all this happens now. Israel may take lessons from whathappens in Syria. What is happening in Syria now? 1.5 million people are homeless in Syria and500,000 Syrians are refugees. Israel may learn lessons from this and send the Palestinians in Gaza toJordan. This is consistent with the old and new projects of Israel anyway. And that project is creationof a non-Arab Israeli state.How do you see the power struggle between Turkey and Iran?Turkey needs to be careful about this. The foreign policy of Russia and Iran poses danger for Syriaand Turkey. The greatest issue in Turkey is the Kurdish problem. This problem should be addressedwithin the unity of Turkey. Otherwise, it will remain a bleeding wound.Could Turkey stand against Iran, if it resolves its Kurdish issue?I do not think a conventional war will break out between the two countries. If you are referring to a coldwar, I have no idea about it. I believe that there is a cold war in economic interests. In fact, the onlyissue that needs to be resolved is the Kurdish issue, because Syria and Iran use the Kurdish cardagainst Turkey. I do not want to say that they are using the Kurds; but Turkey needs to resolve itsKurdish issue.The relations between Turkey and President of the Iraqi Kurdistan region Massoud Barzani arefirm; could this be influential?This is a positive development and it will help. But one problem remains, and this is the PKK issue.This needs to be resolved. I believe that Turkey should take measures to recognize the social, culturaland ethnic rights of the Kurds in Turkey. Some still approach the Kurdish issue from a Kemalistperspective. And this is wrong because there is plurality in Turkey and it is an asset for the country.What is the size of the Druze population in the Middle East? Do you have contact with all ofthem?
I am an Arab, and I told you I support the Syrian people. There are Druze people who support theSyrian regime; on the other hand, there are Druze people in Israel, but we have no connection withthem. At the same time, there are Druze people against the Jews in Israel. We are in touch with themand we support them. This is not about the Druze people; it is about homeland.PROFILEWalid Jumblatt is a Lebanese politician and the current leader of the Progressive Socialist Party(PSP). He is the most prominent leader of Lebanon’s Druze community. Walid Jumblatt graduatedfrom the American University of Beirut in Political Science. He was a supporter of Syria after theLebanese Civil War but, since the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in 2000, he hascampaigned for Damascus to relinquish control. On Jan. 21, 2011, Jumblatt said he supported thestance of Hezbollah and Syria. With the onset of the Syrian uprising, Jumblatt and the PSP movedtowards an anti-Assad camp.http://www.turkeytribune.com/turkey-tribune/druze-leader-claims-syria-crisis-israel-expel-arabs.html